Associate Professor of Art History
New York University
Prita Meier (Ph.D., Harvard University) is a tenured Associate Professor of Africanist art history in the Department of Art History and Institute of Fine Arts. Her research focuses on the arts and architectures of east African port cities and histories of transcontinental exchange and conflict. She is the author of Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere (Indiana University Press, 2016) and has publications in the Art Bulletin, Art History, African Arts, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Artforum, and Arab Studies Journal, as well as contributions in several exhibition catalogs and edited books. She co-organized an exhibition and co-edited World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean (Washington University Press, 2018). Currently she is working on a new book about the social and aesthetic history of photography in Zanzibar and Mombasa. Professor Meier has held fellowships at CASVA at the National Gallery of Art (2017-2018), Clark Art Institute (2014-2015), Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities (2009-2010) and Johns Hopkins University (2007-2009).
By the 1850s, commercial photography studios could be found all across the globe, with people in disparate locations holding similar standing poses in front of standardized backdrops. The essay addresses different manifestations of early photography in eastern Africa, including how to critically approach the subjects pictured in colonial photographs created for international consumption.